A winter storm system moving across California has caused severe weather, including heavy rain, wind, and snow, leading to power outages, flooding, and evacuations across the state. The storm has caused damage along the Northern California coastline, with waves damaging infrastructure and forcing people to evacuate. Along the coastline, huge waves have damaged infrastructure and forced people away from the coast.
A tidal surge washed away chunks of piers in the towns of Seacliff and Capitola and led the city of Santa Cruz to close its wharf, causing millions of dollars in damages. Rivers and streams have overflowed, causing floods and submerging vehicles, homes, and businesses. The storm has also brought waves to historic heights along the California coast.
At least six people have died in the severe weather since New Year’s weekend, including a toddler who was killed by a fallen redwood tree that crushed a mobile home in northern California. Almost 600,000 customers have lost power at some point in the storm, with about 75,000 still without electricity as of Thursday evening. Flash flood watches and winter storm warnings cover large swaths of the state. Multiple communities across California have issued evacuation orders, including an area of San Benito County, south of San Jose, where a failure at a hydropower dam is expected to produce flooding. Several school districts around the Bay Area have also cancelled classes.
Forecasters have warned that yet another “atmospheric river” of dense, moist tropical air will hit California on Monday with rain and mountain snow. This is the first of five atmospheric rivers that are expected to arrive in the state and continue until about January 19.
An NWS weather alert warned that the cumulative effect of successive heavy rain storms since late December could bring rivers to record high levels and cause flooding across much of central California. Brett Whitin, a hydrologist with the California Nevada River Forecast Center, said that there are growing concerns that the Russian River might overflow near the small town of Guerneville in Sonoma County. The authorities have issued evacuation warnings along the river. The rising waters are expected to reach flood levels by next Tuesday, according to the forecast center’s predictions.
Drought-hit California had been on track for another dry winter until the stacked atmospheric rivers came into play. However, most experts believe the state will need a lot more water before the long-term drought can be considered meaningfully broken. Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, stated that the storm is hitting the entire state and is causing risks of rising tides on the coast, risks of snow and avalanche in the mountains, and risks of flood and debris flow in rural areas, as well as flood and power outage risks and falling trees and lines in urban areas. Bay Area Rapid Transit, which ferries thousands of commuters to work each day, had to slow some trains and cancel others due to fallen trees, other storm debris, and wet weather. In Burlingame, near San Francisco International Airport, a tree fell onto power lines near a set of train tracks, shutting down rail service on Thursday morning. A mudslide also blocked one lane of State Route 1, according to the police in Pacifica, south of San Francisco.